Seeking Aces in the Gold Cup

Profile Picture: James Scully

June 27th, 2015

Hard Aces makes his fourth start for trainer John Sadler in Saturday’s Gold Cup at Santa Anita and the late runner figures to receive a prime set-up in the 1 ¼-mile race, with three confirmed speedsters (Batti Man, Big Casanova and Moreno) guaranteeing a contested pace.

His 12-1 morning line price adds to the appeal and I’ll be playing the deep closer with jockey Victor Espinoza.

Hard Aces was a hard-knocking allowance type at age three who looked primed to step up to stakes company at age four. But he raced sparingly last season, making only three starts from late February to the middle of December. The Kentucky-bred horse finally turned the corner over the winter for former trainer Larry Jones, following a runner-up finish in the December 21 Tenacious Stakes with a four-length romp in the January 17 Louisiana Handicap.

One of 12 horses entered to the February 21 Mineshaft Handicap at Fair Grounds, Hard Aces stood out when handicapping the race in my opinion. However, the five-year-old was sold in the days preceding the race and scratched by his new connections, who transferred him to the care of John Sadler in California.

Hard Aces was redirected to the Santa Anita Handicap on March 7 and recorded a decent fourth behind Shared Belief, Moreno and Catch a Flight that afternoon. That marked his first attempt against top-class competition.

Sadler lacks a strong track record with out-of-state shippers and his charge didn’t fire in the April 11 Oaklawn Handicap next out, recording an even sixth, but Hard Aces rebounded in the May 30 Californian at Santa Anita, rallying boldly in the latter stages for third.

The encouraging performance serves as a nice building block and Hard Aces looks primed for another step forward in my estimation.

I like Hard Aces’ chances for an upset.

Hard Aces photo courtesy of Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography